Unlike your favorite hotel employees, Jen Malone doesn’t often answer to a ringing bell, but much like those service masters, she is usually smiling (usually). Today we’re introducing her on the OneFourKidLit blog. Jen is the author of the forthcoming AT YOUR SERVICE, which publishes with SImon & Schuster Aladdin this summer.
Four questions. Are you ready?
Bring it! Wait, did that count as the first one?
No! Starting… now. Okay, tell us a little about your book.
AT YOUR SERVICE is about Chloe, who is laser-focused on becoming the best concierge the city of New York has ever seen, despite the fact that she’s only twelve at the book’s beginning. She does have a good mentor in her concierge father and living in a hotel keeps her right in the action (and makes her a legend among her friends: Sleepovers with room service sundae bars! Celebrity spottings! Maids to make her bed!) When Chloe proves herself particularly adept at handling at out-of-control guest, she is awarded the role of junior concierge, taking care of all the kids who stay at the hotel.
All is going well until the children of visiting royalty are placed in her care and the youngest princess pulls a disappearing act. With little to go on except the fact that Princess Ingrid is intent on completing her collection of souvenir pressed pennies, Chloe, her best friend Paisley, and the remaining royals: a perfectly perfect tween princess and her adorable prince (as in actual prince) of a brother have to hit up all of New York’s best tourist destinations to track down the little girl before Chloe’s mistake becomes international news and she loses all chances of future concierge glory.
Fun! Sounds like New York City plays a pretty major role in AT YOUR SERVICE?
Definitely! I consider it another character. I love the city and I head down from Boston several times a year, but most of my early impressions of it were formed from visiting the tourist sites and I still feel that magic of seeing the city through those eyes. I loved making Chloe a proud native and showing her joy in sharing her city with guests, as well as her indignation when Princess Sophie only focuses on its negatives. In fact my favorite lines in the book are when Sophie tells Chloe she’s not a fan and Chloe thinks, “Has she not seen the t-shirts? They don’t say “I FROWNY-FACE NY” No. They say “I HEART NY” And anyone who doesn’t heart it themselves must not have a heart to begin with.” She truly can’t believe anyone could resist its charms (although neither can I)!
What was your favorite scene to write?
Chloe’s first kiss, for sure. Granted, it takes place in front of Sexy Sadie the Bearded Lady at Ripley’s Believe it or Not and it’s for the benefit of a paparazzo, but it is from a cute prince and there’s some dipping involved (though mostly because she can’t put pressure on her newly-sprained ankle). The one I had the most fun researching was the Rockette scene. Chloe escorts a guest to a behind-the-scenes rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall, and I needed to be sure I was getting the details right. I was lucky enough that one of my critique partners is friends with a Rockette so I interviewed her for maybe two hours and she walked me step by step (pun intended) through a session. I had to cut a ton out of the book to keep the story moving along but I could have written ten chapters about this, I was so fascinated. Here’s a fun fact: did you know those dancers are able to keep such perfect formation in part because there are grid lines on the stage floor, marking horizontal lines and vertical lines with letters and numbers? So they learn the choreography according to their grid coordinates for each step. I also did a ton of research on behind-the-scenes hotel stuff, some of which makes me never want to travel again☺
Oh, do spill!
This didn’t make it into the book (though tons of other hotel tricks did), but if you’re rude to a New York City front desk clerk, he or she will assign you to Room 1212. That way, if guests use the phone in their room to dial any New York number (area code 212) and forget to dial 9 for an outside line, the phone in your room will ring. So you’ll likely be taking orders for Chinese food at 3 a.m! Less effective in the age of cell phones, but still pretty diabolical…